While we were officially there to take a first look at the next generation of Renault Formula One car, there were a few moments during Renault's Tuesday launch where it felt as though the team were more excited about their statistics than they were about their 2017 challenger.
As the car hunkered down beneath its dust sheet, the screen behind the assembled Renault executives blasted out facts and figures about the Enstone racers, who according to the team are now F1's fastest-growing outfit in terms of: headcount, investment, partners, and fanbase (as measured through social media subscriptions and interactions).
The aim for F1's fastest growing team? To be the fifth-fastest car in 2017, with Jerome Stoll -- president of Renault Sport Racing -- telling the assembled guests and media in London's Royal Horticultural Society halls that Renault's 2017 goal was to finish fifth in the constructors' championship.
With the highly-rated Nico Hulkenberg joining the team after his years at Sahara Force India, Renault have a more experienced line-up with which to take the fight to the upper mid-field this season.
Joining Hulkenberg will be Jolyon Palmer, starting his second season with the Enstone racers. Palmer settled in well in 2016, delivering a point for the team in his rookie year, and team principal Cyril Abiteboul is confident that the young Briton will continue to improve with Hulkenberg keeping him on his toes.
"I feel very confident [about 2017]", Stoll said at the launch of what has been called the RS17. "We have outstanding people who have done an excellent job over the past few months. ... I feel very confident in the fact that we should deliver. On top of that, we have a new asset who will help us achieve our ambitions over the next few years: that asset is Alain Prost [special advisor for RenaultSport Racing]."
Also confident was Abiteboul, who said at the launch that Renault's target for the year was to finish in the points at every race. "For 2017 we are perfectly placed to take the step forward we all desire," the Frenchman said in London on Tuesday. "The RS17 is the result of many long working hours spent over our two integrated locations and the result it a car we can be proud of. We have a strong lineup of personnel at all levels of the team and we're proud to see Nico and Sergey join Jolyon in 2017.
"We are joined up a strong group of partners with BP, Castrol MAPFRE and SMP Racing representing the best pre-season sponsorship acquisition campaign in the paddock. We are the fastest growing F1 team and we now need to prove our performance on track. Our objective is to score points at every round."
Part of Renault's confidence can be put down to the usual pre-season excitement, those glory days between launch and testing in which everyone's car is a potential winner. But the big cheeses at Viry and Enstone aren't simply blowing smoke rings when they talk about the RS17's potential this season. Not only do the dramatic rule changes in place this year create an opportunity to shake up the established order, but from a business point of view Renault have put some fine structures in place for the next season.
In recent years sponsors have been seeking to get more from their relationships than simple signage and the odd bit of VIP treatment on race weekends. These days, the approach is a symbiotic one, with linked industries working together to mutual advantage -- more technical partnerships and test beds than basic promotion and exposure.
Renault -- who have secured a number of new partners over the winter -- are far from immune to that shift, and have been working along similar lines with Microsoft for the past five years. Not only do Microsoft work with the Renault-Nissan alliance on connected cars and similar technology, but their relationship with the race team enables the IT company to stress-test cloud storage and data security across a range of extreme environments as F1 travels the world.
Newer partners include BP Lubricants, who are bringing Castrol to Enstone. With it they hope to be able to provide Renault with similar improvements to both power and efficiency that Mercedes have seen through their Petronas relationship and that Ferrari have enjoyed with Shell. Oils and lubricants are becoming ever more important in the fight for a competitive advantage, and a dedicated supplier offering custom solutions -- and keen to prove to other F1 teams that they're the brand to beat -- should give Renault something of a performance boost.